Dance of the Dust | Chicago Reader

Dance of the Dust

This 1992 feature about impoverished bricklayers was originally banned in Iran, then mutilated through the addition of an offscreen narration by its boy hero, which director Abolfazl Jalili had nothing to do with; this year it surfaced at the Locarno film festival in its original form and won several prizes. It?s impressive for many of its scenic images as well as its dynamic editing, but as a piece of poetic ethnography it strikes me as somewhat willful, more removed from its characters than it sometimes pretends to be, and not entirely convincing; the sense of complicity one feels between Robert Flaherty and the Eskimos in Nanook of the North, for instance, is never in evidence. Using minimal dialogue that includes fragments of English as well as Farsi, the film encountered censorship difficulties prior to the recent liberalized climate in Iran because of its harsh depiction of poverty; such considerations aside, its virtues are mainly formal.

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